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Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Tuesday, Sept. 18, 07 -- Winds won't quit; Porcupine Fish Pokes

Tuesday, September 18, 2007: Waves: Large and somewhat gnarly. Water clarity: Fair. Water temp: 67.

This wind has gone from troublesome to tedious. For three days running the NE gusts have blown away all potential for easy boat fishing and have either driven away surfcasters or forced them to the lee side of jetties to contend with currents running north to south at 4 knots or more.

The south tip of Holgate doesn’t care about the winds, which are essentially offshore at the Rip over to the west side. The bluefish are there is seemingly never-ending numbers. Some bass are in the plugging mix, though it’s better to work the breezy frontbeach to attract them. Poppers are a good attractant. Gibb’s Polaris rules.

Bait run is still very much on. Downside is the very few gamefish, short of blues, dining on the movable feast.

Email: “Jay, Just for something to do this afternoon I went over to the dock to throw the cast net to see what was around. I never saw so many baby black drum, every cast had at least a half dozen. Maybe we will be fishing for drum instead of fluke soon. Quite a few baby weakies, 2 baby white perch, 2 kingfish, 2 miniature fluke, 4 small blowfish, 3 baby robins and 2 crab traps. No snappers. No peanut bunker, I had dozens a week ago, from what I've seen every morning, most of the bunker is on the east side getting ready to move out. Hope they don't all leave at once. Had spectacular weakfishing this morning again, very nice fish up to 31". No spikes, but all released regardless. I haven't had such good weakfishing since the late 70's early 80's, and that fluke seasons was the best I've had in 40 years. Still picking up fluke on plastic. No stripes today, one yesterday. TJ”

PORCUPINEFISH POKE ALERT: Odd bait-biter of the season goes to the porcupine fish being caught on hook and line. They are also called ajargo, hedgehog, hedgehog fish and often, simply, look-at-this-weird-dead-fish fish.

We usually get a couple/few porcupine fish showing in our waters, mainly as casualties washed up on the beaches. This year, they’re out there swimming around in large-ish numbers, at least for such an exotic warm-water species. Even odder, they are frequently taking baits, often in association with blowfish – to which they are closely related. While most are being caught in the bay I have a few reports of them going for kingfish baits in the surf.

I think pretty much everyone has seen these heavily spiked, decidedly rounded fish, which usually receive an “Oh, how cute” from the gals, even when the fish is washed up on the beach, dead as a decaying doornail.

Well, there might be some less-than-cuddly points to porcupine fish.

We already know that our beloved blowfish – with a delightfully edible tail – is toxic to some degrees. Its internal workings hold the bad stuff, not the meat.

The poison carried round by blowfish and related species is a potentially lethal neurotoxin, known as tetrodotoxin, or TTX. That name is derived from the blowfish’s scientific family, Tetraodontidae.

Scarily, there is no known antidote for acute tetrodotoxin absorption by humans.

TTX is famed as the deadly side dish to fugu eating in Japan, where one false bite of their sushimied blowfish can send you to those happy sushi-hunting grounds in the sky. But not all is deleterious when it comes to naturally occurring TTX. Pharmaceutical companies have found tetrodotoxin to be a painkiller of the highest order, providing its pilled out in miniscule amounts. No, you can’t save money on prescription fees by running out and grabbing a blowfish to chew on its intestines. At least, I don’t think you can. I’ll get back to you on that.

(Hmmm. Note to Self: Develop “Jay Mann’s Ass-Kicking Painkiller Chews.” Just dry the intestines of blowfish, flavor them with Crème de menthe, add some caffeine and a touch of squid ink for color. Voila! Both my trick knee pain and my chronic poverty pains are gone. Thanks, puffers.)

Anyway, it should be no surprise that the blowfish-related porcupine fish also carry around some toxic stuff. However, things can apparently be a lot trickier for humans when dealing with the pokies on porcupine fish, especially dead-on-arrival models. Wade through the jargon in this technical write-up from a medical journal and you’ll get the point.

“A curator of an aquarium sustained minor punctures in his finger from the spines of a porcupine fish during an autopsy of a dead porcupine fish. He developed paresthesias, numbness, paresis, dizziness and headache. The death of the fish might have caused some autolysis, leading to increased availability of TTX. In combination with direct contact with the organ fluids, this probably led to TTX exposure via minor wounds.”

It should be pointed out that despite numerous deaths from TTX worldwide, almost all drop-deads are related to poorly trimmed sashimi or improperly cleaned blowfish/porcupine fish meat. Also, most serious TTX poisonings are in tropical regions, where puffers maximize their toxin load, likely from something they eat. However, I now have huge qualms about picking up dead porcupine fish -- and throwing them at people for fun.

Truth be told, I usually shrug off all the talk of toxic this and toxic that. “I ain’t afraid of no stinkin’ toxins,” is my motto, right before rushing to the ER.

For me, my toxin rebelliousness dates back to kid-time. On a dare, I once ate poison ivy. We’re talking a salad’s worth. I was maybe 10. My buddies stood there certain my mouth was going to explode open or something. Nothing happened, then or later. This is the gospel truth. Since then, I have been totally immune from the plant’s poison. I’ll come to your house and hand-pull every poison ivy plant you’ve got -- and nary a pustule will result. You will, of course, get my $20 an hour landscaping fee, plus my $50 guest appearance stipend.

Anyway, I have this funny feeling that the spines of both the dead and still flapping porcupine fish we find up here carry some un-nice stuff. This is one self-theory I’m not going to test first-hand. Feel free to debunk me. You might want to have your medical insurance paid up.

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